Refactoring Leadership

A geek struggles to become a leader


Last year at Edgenet, we switched from PTO to DTO. Under Discretionary Time Off you don't accrue a certain promised amount of vacation. You and your manager work out what you need with no set limit. This seemed like a progressive move to me but I got a lot of negative feedback. The reservations were:
  1. If I quit or get fired, I no longer have a cushion of PTO to help me transition.
  2. I don't like the fact that a new employee has the same vacation as me, since I've been here for X years and now accrue at a higher rate.
I don't necessarily have a great answer for issue #1, things like terminating someone is handled on a case by case basis. Issue #2 seems to betray a lack of trust in management: Damon will hire someone fresh out of college and let them take six weeks their first year. There are a couple of reasons why I like this policy.

While Edgenet has a codified list of our Values, when people ask me about our my management style I usually start with a very basic elevator speech: I strive to focus on the things that are important and ignore the things that aren't. Whatever vacation quotient The Almighty HR Gods came up with doesn't mean as much to me as whether or not you are meeting your commitments. I have long seen good managers unofficially throw extra vacation at someone who's been going the extra mile, and this just makes that my official policy.

This also gives me a unique way to take care of people. While I will argue that workaholics are bad for your culture, some people just can't help it. Maybe they are not truly committed workaholics, but they suffer from the notion that they are such a Lynchpin that Bad Things™ will happen if they take rest.

Someone may also be looking at a calendar year and budgeting their vacation. "Ok, I have X days for this trip during the summer, X days around Thanksgiving, X days after Christmas, so I really can't take this 4 day weekend..." With DTO I'm able to force someone to take the mental health days they may need. I have actually threatened to turn off someone's access fob and VPN for a few days if they don't voluntarily take some time for themselves to rejuvenate.

What do you think? A good tool or a trendy bit of nonsense?

Comments (2) -

  • Dan Kline

    10/31/2015 11:52:51 PM | Reply

    Rigid work/life structures are hard to manage in real life.  However flexible policies are a challenge for businesses.  Execution of both approaches is extremely dependent on the individual responsible for managing it.  The only true way to measure is in the productivity, morale and cohesiveness of your team.  That is the objective.  Any policy is simply a system to accomplish those qualities.  Results are the only fair measure of the approach and the execution.

  • Chris Ammerman

    11/4/2015 9:16:09 PM | Reply

    Since Damon is my boss, I'm happy with the DTO policy, because based on our history I do trust him to follow the values he describes here. If I had a manager who was less capable and empowering, I might prefer a minimum mandatory time off (i.e., take X weeks off in the year, or else you get a ding in your review, lose a fraction of bonus, or whatever), with extra granted as a perk or allowed at the manager's discretion.